If you tend to grind your teeth at night or if you play an intense sport, then you may have mouth guards designed to help protect your teeth. While these devices can be incredibly helpful, they require proper care and maintenance. Just like your teeth, they need to be constantly cleaned in order to avoid bacterial buildup. Keep reading to learn how best to care for your mouth guards and keep dastardly bacteria at bay.
What are Mouth Guards?
A Mouth guard is used to protect teeth and maintain good oral health. Also called a night guard or sports guard, a mouth guard is a removable oral device that covers your teeth and separates your top teeth from your bottom teeth. Guards can be used at night to help with a condition called sleep bruxism which causes one to grind their teeth or clench during sleep. They are also used to manage temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Other times, guards are worn during sports such as football, hockey, and boxing to protect your teeth and jaw.
How to Keep Your Mouth Guard Clean
It is important to keep your mouth guard clean as it is worn in your mouth where teeth rotting bacteria can build up. If the bacteria multiplies and is not cleaned, then it can cause tooth decay, gum disease, or bad breath. As such, you should add cleaning your guard to your daily oral health routine. By keeping your guard clean, it will last you longer and stay in better shape.
#1: Rinse It after Each Use
After removing your night or sports guard, you should immediately rinse it with warm water (not hot water). Rinsing with the warm water will remove debris and prevent plaque from building.
#2: Gently Brush It
Once you have rinsed your mouth guard, gently brush it with a soft toothbrush. Lightly brush until you have a clean surface. To avoid bacterial cross contamination, use a separate toothbrush for cleaning your guard than the one you use to clean your teeth.
You should not use a hard toothbrush or abrasive toothpaste as this may scratch your guard and cause it to wear out more quickly. Instead, it is recommended that you use an antibacterial soap such as Dish soap or Castile soap or a non-abrasive toothpaste for daily cleaning. You can also use baking soda to remove debris and reduce bad odor by creating a paste with equal parts water and baking soda.
Here are the steps to wash your mouth guard with a toothbrush:
- First, rinse your guard in cool water;
- Apply a small amount of toothpaste, soap, or baking soda paste to the toothbrush;
- Gently brush;
- Rinse off the toothpaste, soap suds, or baking soda with cool water;
- Finally, let it dry.
#3: The Mouth Guard Must Dry Completely Before Being Stored in Its Case
Do not store your mouth guard when it is still wet. Let it completely air dry before storing it in its case to prevent rapid bacterial growth. If laid out on a clean, flat surface, your guard should dry completely within 15-30 minutes.
#4: Thoroughly Clean Your Mouth Guard Every Week
You should give your mouth guard a deeper clean once every week. There are a few different ways to go about deep cleaning your guards, but we recommend using hydrogen peroxide and distilled white vinegar to get the job done.
To clean with hydrogen peroxide and vinegar, first, rinse your guard in cool water and then place it in a clean glass. Add vinegar until it is covered and let it soak for approximately 30 minutes. After it has soaked, remove it and rinse it again with cool water. Be sure to rinse the glass as well. Place the guard back into the glass and add hydrogen peroxide until it is submerged. Once more, let it soak for 30 minutes. Finally, rinse the guard with cool water and let it dry completely before storing it! With these easy steps, it should not be difficult to do a quick deep clean of your guards every week.
If you feel like your guards need a deeper wash than what baking soda or hydrogen peroxide can provide, you can try using over-the-counter non-abrasive denture cleaning tablets for a real deep clean. However, do not soak a night or sports guard in this denture cleaner for too long as it may damage or degrade it. Chemical mouthguard cleaners are also available as tablets or powders that dissolve in water. To use a cleaner, fill a clean glass with enough water and add the tablet or powder. Soak your guard in the lukewarm water and cleanser solution for 5 to 10 minutes and then rinse with cool water. Finally, let it dry.
#5: Keep It in a Clean Case
When your mouth guard is not in your mouth, store it in a case to make sure it stays clean and to avoid damage. While most people store their guards in their bathrooms, over time, the steam and humidity in the bathroom can cause it to warp. Instead, store it in your bedroom or on your nightstand. Keep it in a dry place safe from extremely hot or cold temperatures.
How Long are Mouth Guards Supposed to Last?
How long your mouth guard lasts depends on three main factors:
- The material of your guard;
- How often you use it;
- How well you take care of it.
If you take good care of your guards, they should last for around 5 years. Proper care includes letting it dry completely after cleaning, storing it in a dry place, and avoiding hot water or air.
However, if you use it frequently, you will likely need to replace it every year. An OTC mouth guard may need replacing every few months as it is less durable and prone to wear more quickly than custom-made versions.
Look out for the following signs that your guard needs replacing:
- A loose fit;
- Reduced thickness;
- Deformed shape;
- Causes gum or teeth irritation;
- Persistent bad odor;
Your dentist can check for signs that your mouth guard has too much wear and needs to be replaced during your regular checkups.
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Start Your Orthodontic Journey at Loudoun Orthodontics!
Contact Loudoun Orthodontics if you are ready to learn more about night or sports guards and how they can help you achieve your best smile. Whether you want to learn more about the benefits of using a mouth guard or simply have questions about how to care for your mouth guard, get in touch with our office in Lansdowne, VA, today for a free consultation! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health!